UK companies 'struggling with post-Brexit plans'

Too few UK companies have made preparations for a business model on how they will continue to trade with Europe after the Brexit transition period ends on December 31, according to a new survey.

UK globe, EU globe and world globe
With the prospects of a no-deal Brexit looming ever closer, the survey of more than 500 companies by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) found that 51% had not taken any of the eight steps recommended by the government to prepare for changes in the movement of goods between the UK and the EU."This includes fundamentals of operation for trading businesses such as checking on the need for customs declarations and assessing the possible impact of changes on existing customers and suppliers," said the BCC.Additionally, the survey revealed that only 38% of the businesses had completed a Brexit risk assessment this year.

Michael Gove warns parliament about disruption that will be caused by lack of business preparedness

The survey, published on Thursday, came less than 24 hours after Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove - the minister responsible for post-Brexit planning - warned parliament, "The consequences of a lack of business preparedness will be not just economic opportunities missed for those companies who don't prepare, but potentially much wider disruption."
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Brexit: lack of clarity about what rules of origin will apply after transition period ends

The BCC’s Brexit guidance dashboard - a compilation of 35 questions most frequently raised by businesses - found that firms do not know what rules of origin will apply after the transition period, "preventing them and their customers from planning and potentially creating unprecedented new administration and costs".

Movement of goods to the EU and Northern Ireland

There was also no clarity on how food and drink due to be sold in the EU and Northern Ireland would be labelled and that there was only "very limited" guidance on the movement of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Businesses face a triple threat of coronavirus, receding government support schemes, and a disorderly end to the transition period.

Adam Marshall, BCC director-general, said, “With just 98 days to go, business communities face the triple threat of a resurgent coronavirus, receding government support schemes, and a disorderly end to the transition period.“Significant unanswered questions remain for businesses, and despite recent public information campaigns, base levels of preparedness are low. Many firms say they've heard talk of deadlines and cliff edges before, and others are still grappling with fundamental challenges as a result of the pandemic and have little cash or information with which to plan.“While we recognise that some of the questions facing businesses are subject to ongoing negotiations between the government and the EU, other matters are within the UK’s own hands. The government must ramp up engagement with business urgently – to the levels seen prior to previous ‘no deal’ deadlines – to ensure that the real-world issues facing firms get tackled immediately.

The complexity of Brexit-related changes for business: akin to planning a moon landing

“The (government's) ‘Check, Change, Go’ campaign gives the impression that Brexit-related changes are like getting an MoT, whereas the reality is that, for many businesses, they’re more akin to planning a moon landing. Businesses need honest communication about the complexity of the changes they face and stronger encouragement to act.”

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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